Harry Morgan, the steely actor known for such memorable television roles as Detective Bill Gannon on “Dragnet” and Colonel Sherman T. Potter on “M*A*S*H,” died today at his Los Angeles home after a bought with pneumonia. He was 96.
A native of Detroit, Morgan (né Bratsberg) got his professional start in a 1937 production of Golden Boy by New York City’s Group Theater. The actor would go on to appear in hundreds of stage, film, and television productions, ranging from cowboy dramas like The Ox-Bow Incident and High Noon to lighter fare such as The Apple Dumpling Gang and The Cat From Outer Space.
There’s no question, though, that Harry Morgan’s stints on late ’60s detective show “Dragnet” (opposite the similarly no-nonsense Jack Webb) and ’70s Korean War dramedy “M*A*S*H” were his most famed. Morgan earned an Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy in 1980 for his work on the wildly popular latter program, in which he portrayed crotchety commanding officer Sherman Tecumseh Potter. Following the conclusion of “M*A*S*H” in 1983, Morgan reprised the role of Potter for two seasons in the maligned spin-off series “AfterMASH.”
Harry Morgan continued acting into the ’90s, appearing on sitcoms such as “Grace Under Fire,” “Third Rock From The Sun,” and “The Jeff Foxworthy Show.” A 1995 episode of “The Simpsons” found Morgan visiting Springfield as his Bill Gannon character from “Dragnet” to investigate the alleged criminal activities of Homer Simpson’s mother. Morgan’s final film credit came in the 1999 Lance Larson short Crosswalk.
Harry Morgan was one of Hollywood’s most lovable curmudgeons, a gifted grump with a foghorn voice that cut its way into our hearts over the course of so many addictive performances. He will be missed many times over.
In searching for the quintessential Harry Morgan YouTube clip, I came across this humorous snippet wherein the actor discusses working with Elvis Presley on the 1966 musical Frankie & Johnny. Apparently, Morgan “never met a more polite kid” in his life, and his outstanding memory from the shoot concerned an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the King of Rock n’ Roll from formality (“He called me ‘Mr. Morgan,’ and I said, ‘For Christ’s sake, Elvis, call me Harry!'”).
Across The Universe: Like Hair, only thirty times longer as well as thirty times less interesting. A true test for anyone who’s merely “meh” about the Beatles. The only Fab Four references they missed, I think, were Mark David Chapman and “Free As A Bird.” Perhaps those will turn up in Across The Universe 2: We Really Changed Things Back In The Sixties, But Now It’s The Eighties And We’ve Sold Out Our Ideals For High-Paying Jobs And Land In New Jersey.
Let The Right One In: Swedish vampire film named after a Morrissey song. The cinematography is interesting, but the plot is just as predictable as any other vampire flick in movie history. C’mon, little guy, why do you think your girlfriend is only available at night and has never heard of a Rubik’s Cube?
Dutch: I used to love this movie, but now I see it may have just been the undercooked Uncle Buck sequel John Candy refused to make. Still, Ed O’Neil is great in it, and the kid is a sort of realistic character. I kind of feel I was like that at that age. I would have never back-sassed Al Bundy like that, though. My Momma didn’t raise no fool.
MASH: A true classic. Chock full o’ enticing characters and Sahara dry humor. Plus, Gary Burghoff—is there any funnier nebbish?
Coming To America: Eriq La Salle is such an asshole in this movie. You just wanna slam his jeri-curled head right into a wall. On the other hand, Arsenio is so likable in this movie, you just wanna give him a syndicated talk show and watch him run it into the ground.